Española’s The Imperial Rooster has been harassing me online. I honestly don’t mind, and actually applaud the band members’ ability to self-promote without seeming like total assholes. At any rate, I attempted to see Imperial Rooster at The Underground on St. Patrick’s Day, only to discover one of its members was dealing with a family emergency (good luck!), so the performance fell through.
The consolation prize was a performance from one of my favorite local musicians, Anthony Leon, but I came for Imperial Rooster. I hear the band is phenomenal live and its album, Old Good Poor Crazy Dead, is pretty damn good. For now, we’ll just have to get hyped up for its next show with yet another listen.
Old Good Poor Crazy Dead has a punk-rock sloppiness, and the songs certainly live up to the band’s self-description: Tom Waits meeting Nick Cave and writing Johnny Cash songs with Hunter S Thompson lyrics. The eight songs touch on the more memorable aspects of folk and country through the ages. Imperial Rooster (made up of Nat King Kong, Cootie LeRoux, Khorn Syrup, Tennessee Skilly McGee, Lulu Lotus Cornblossom and Dusty Vinyl) pulls the very best parts from a bazillion years of tradition and inserts these time-honored melodies, themes and instruments into each song. Read on for a brief description of my favorite tracks, and then pick this thing up and make it to a show. I’ll probably see y’all there.
“Your Friends Think I’m The Devil”
Track one is a raucous tune that would make a killer sing-a-long. It opens with nitty-gritty slide guitar laid over a sloppy beat. The vocals almost recall Lux Interior of The Cramps attempting to impersonate Elvis. From the title and lyrics, we surmise that the subject of the song is disliked by a lady-friend’s homegirls. And dudes, we all know that one, right? Right. The twist here is that the lyrics describe a man who wishes he could be a little more evil—or, at least feel less guilty about leaving his woman. My grandmother would call this
a high-class problem.
This song answers the age-old question, “What do you need when you eat a pig?” Why, you need a pigfork, of course. Everybody loves a tongue-in-cheek ditty. With a humorous and playful set of lyrics reminiscent of The Aquabats’ song, “Lobster Bucket,” Imperial Rooster lets us know that its members not only love eating pig (and who doesn’t?), they also refuse to live in this world without a pigfork. I don’t know what a pigfork is, but I picture one of those two-pronged numbers. Pig-squeals add an authentic touch to this rootsy tune.
As you hear the banjo then a fiddle join the quietly beautiful mandolin, you’ll find yourself pumped not only on strings, but the ever-so-Irish sound of this number. A tragic tale of dustbowl-like poverty, “Uranium Mole” has a Woody Guthrie meets Tennessee Ernie Ford feel to it—think of Americans working hard for even the most basic of necessities. The vocal melody is spooky and pretty, and benefits from minimal drums.
“The Ballad of Lightnin’ Bill Jasper”
If you don’t love a good folk-hero song, then you’re a pinko commie. With numerous references to traditional folk-song themes (Paul Bunyan, working for the railroad, the hero being misunderstood, etc.), this upbeat tune is the album’s true head-bobber. Vocal harmonies abound and, by this point in the album, it’s quite clear that Imperial Rooster isn’t taking itself too seriously. And really, who doesn’t like a fun band?
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